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"Is this the North Side? It has a totally different vibe from the East. Kind of reminds me of when I visited London but everything is decorated for Halloween."
"You visited London? London, Paris…?"
Stepping out from the Astral Gate Terminal that allowed people to travel to the various regions of the Little Garden in an instant, Asuka couldn't help perking up when she heard Izayoi mention Paris. She often traveled on business with her Grandfather, but, for the most part, the regions she visited were limited to the South East Asian circle. Traveling internationally wasn't exactly easy around the end of the Second World War.
Shrugging his shoulders, Izayoi lackadaiscially replied, "I got around a bit when I was a kid. We can talk about it later. Our main focus right now should be searching for a place to stay. What say you, oh fearless Leader?".
Tearing his eyes away from Lily, a conflicted look developed across Jin's face as he answered, "Our invitation should allow us to stay at the Royal Palace. Prior to losing our name and banner, the No Names were long-time allies with the Salamandra Community. This is a good opportunity to find out why they never tried helping us…"
Hearing the strain and frustration in Jin's tone, Lily couldn't help feeling a little worried. It wasn't particularly well known, but the two of them used to be good friends with Sandora. They had even bathed together as children so Lily was afraid Jin might say or do something they would all regret.
Shaking his head, Jin's expression relaxed as he said, "I'm fine. I just want to hear their reason. Even if they don't have one, I'm not going to throw a tantrum or accuse them of betraying us. I just need to know for certain…"
Though she wasn't exactly relieved by Jin's words, Lily offered one of her characteristically calm and supportive smiles as she answered, "I understand." in a soft tone.
Destroying the depressive atmosphere, Izayoi spontaneously picked up Asuka and shouted, "We'll see you guys there!" before jumping into the air and using the tops of buildings to avoid the heavy pedestrian traffic.
Not wanting to be a third wheel to Jin and Lily, Yo also bolted off but not before saying, "Enjoy the festival." in a supportive tone. Lily smiled in response to this while Jin, realizing he would be alone with his girlfriend during one of the biggest festivals in the North, began feeling nervous. He could barely display his affection in private. He also had a habit of holing himself in the library for days on end, so, as romantic as the notion of a festival date sounded, he wasn't looking forward to the idea of being surrounded by so many people. It would be one thing if he and Lily were still children, but, now that she had matured into one of the most beautiful women he had ever laid eyes on, walking around in public was tantamount to asking for trouble…
Grabbing Jin's hand, Lily maintained a supportive smile as she said, "Everything's going to be okay, Jin. You're a lot stronger than I think you realize. You just need to be a bit more confident."
With Yo having already departed, Jin only hesitated for a brief moment before asking, "You mean like Izayoi and Vahn?"
Exhaling a sigh, Jin's expression immediately turned apologetic as he appended, "Sorry, Lily…I just…"
Shaking her head, Lily adopted an even brighter smile as she linked her arm with Jin's, her breasts pressing into him as she said, "It's fine, Jin. It really is. Now, come on. Let's have a bit of fun before going to visit Sandora-chan, okay?"
Though a ruddy hue colored his cheeks, Jin made no attempt to break away from Lily. Instead, he stood a bit straighter than before as he answered, "You're right…we don't get many opportunities like this. Let's make the most of it."
Suppressing the urge to sigh in relief, Lily surprised Jin with a kiss on the cheek before following it with a playful giggle and saying, "Let's go~!" in the most jovial and excited tone she could manage.
"Is this why you're so relaxed all the time? I'm honestly a little envious…"
Walking around the Palace with her arm linked through Vahn's, Sandora couldn't help staring in awe at the various people they passed along the way. Vahn had manipulated their relative flow of time to such an extent that everything and everyone around them appeared to be frozen in time. It was a truly terrifying ability, but, knowing she was betrothed to the person it belonged to, Sandora felt more excitement than trepidation.
Amused by Sandora's words, a light chuckle emanated from Vahn's throat as he explained, "That isn't the reason. As I mentioned previously, I often control multiple versions of myself at the same time. I meant that in the literal sense. Unlike Wu, I can't just create infinite copies of myself and let them run wild. I have to manually control each and every one of them. Staying calm makes it a lot easier."
As Vahn had already demonstrated his ability to produce multiple versions of himself, Sandora wasn't surprised by his words. Instead, she just tilted her head a bit, eyes focused on nothing in particular as she wondered what it would be like to control multiple bodies at the same time…
"Sounds kind of difficult…"
Nodding his head in affirmation, a wry smile developed across Vahn's face as she said, "When we get back, I'll show you some of the memories from the time when I was first trying to master said ability. You wouldn't believe the number of times I walked into walls or tripped over my own feet…"
Imagining Vahn walking face-first into a wall, Sandora couldn't help giggling. This was one of the things she liked most about Vahn. He wasn't really shy about anything. Rather, unless it pertained to another person, he would share everything about himself.
Though her experiences were nearly inconsequential compared to Vahn's, his openness had given Sandora the strength and courage to share her personal history and traumas. Beforehand, he had promised her that talking about it made things a lot easier. She didn't believe him at first, but, after baring her heart, Sandor felt as though a tremendous weight had been lifted from her shoulders. It was an incredibly liberating experience, and, more importantly, it helped her feel a lot closer to the man she was quicky falling in love with.
As that thought crossed her mind, Sandora rested her head against Vahn's arm with a contented smile on her face. It was a little eerie walking through halls filled with frozen people, but, so long as Vahn was at her side, Sandora felt like she could go anywhere and accomplish anything…
After breaking off from the rest of the group, Yo ascended to the top of one of the many clock towers present throughout the city before reaching into her pocket and pulling out an envelope with the symbol of Thousand Eyes embroidered on its surface.
When Vahn had initially told Izayoi and Asuka about the festival taking place in the North, Jin had vehemently refused their participation. He didn't see any reason for them to travel nearly a million kilometers just to participate in a harvest festival and bear witness to a coronation ceremony that had little, if anything to do with them. They also lacked the funding to make use of the Astral Gate, so, unless they entreated Vahn for an escort, they had no way of traveling such a distance in such a short period of time.
Though people like Izayoi were able to travel and dodge attacks faster than the speed of light, that didn't mean they could cover vast distances in a short period of time. The thing about traversing at such speeds was, more often than not, it was a quirk of relativity rather than raw agility. Simply put, those with sufficient authority or adequate comprehension of the Laws could ignore the restriction of physical laws within a given area. In other words, even if it appeared as though they were moving faster than light relative to others, their actual speed was comparably slow.
If he had the stamina for it, Izayoi could theoretically run from the territory of the No Names all the way to Kouen City in around 3.2 seconds. The caveat was that he would need to be running at max speed for around 400 hours. Since he would tire out after a few thousand, the actual journey would take around 49 days.
With less than three days till the start of the festival, Izayoi, Asuka, Yo, and Lily got together for a brainstorming session while Jin, as usual, holed himself up in the library. They concluded the only way for them to make it in time was to accept a commission, so, after mulling over the matter and conferring with Black Rabbit, they eventually paid a visit to the Thousand Eyes Community to see if Shiroyasha was willing to give them some work.
Though there were thousands of Gift Games taking place over the duration of the festival, the one most people had gathered to witness was the Battle of the Creators. For all intents and purposes, it was the main event of the festival, so, with the excuse they could use it to generate publicity, Izayoi, Asuka, Yo, Lily, and even Black Rabbit gathered to convince Jin to let them participate. He refused at first, but, after a private discussion with Izayoi, he eventually relented on the grounds they promised not to cause trouble during their stay.
As the name implied, the Battle of the Creators was a Gift Game that pit Players with Creation-Type Gifts against one another. This made it sound like it was restricted to individuals with Gifts related to forging and item production but the truth of the matter was that it also extended to those with Gifts related to conjuring, spirit creation, and even Gift production.
With a Gift that allowed her to absorb the genetic data of animals and reproduce them in the form of various armaments, Yo's Gift was the best-suited for the Battle of the Creators. She was also the second strongest member of the No Names, so, while everyone else was off exploring the city and enjoying the company of their respective partners, Yo set her sights on the large colisseum located on the far side and surprisingly attached to the Royal Palace.
Grabbing the wooden carving around her neck, dark blue energy burst forth from Yo's body before vanishing to reveal a buxom and shapely beauty wearing a skimpy outfit with wolf ears and a tail. It was a little embarrassing now that she had matured, but, as it was her most powerful form, Yo often defaulted to Fenrir's Vanargandr transformation whenever she was preparing for a fight.
Fortunately, ever since Vahn had given her the Maneki-neko, Yo no longer had to worry about the forms her armaments took. The moment she transformed, red and gold flames spread out across her body before forming into a less revealing outfit. More importantly, the Maneki-neko's warmth helped alleviate the cold sensation that would permeate Yo's body whenever she transformed into her Vanargandr form.
Feeling a lot more snug and comfortable, Yo bounded through the air on illusory platforms formed of icy magical energy. What she didn't expect was that the closer she got to the coliseum, or, more accurately, the Royal Palace, the giddier she would feel. She wasn't the type to get nervous about a fight, so, upon reaching the hotel located adjacent to the Royal Palace, Yo took a moment to close her eyes and focus on her senses. She couldn't actually smell him, but, for some reason, her senses were telling her that Vahn was nearby…
"What could Vahn be doing in the Royal Palace…?"
(A/N: Alternate Titles: 'Jin needs to get his sh*t together…','I wonder what Sandora's Affection Value is at…?','Even if it's through an armament, there are none better at sensing her Master than Fenrir…')
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